President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has assured Ghanaians living abroad of his commitment to ensure the full implementation of the Representation of the People’s Amendment Law (ROPAL) to give them the opportunity to exercise their franchise in local elections.
He said the law was passed to make it possible for Ghanaians abroad to cast their votes and wondered why, since the passage of the law, it had remained dormant on the statute books.
While interacting with the Ghanaian community in Lome, Togo as part of his two-day working visit to that country, President Akufo-Addo said: “But, as you know, the arrangements for elections are in the hands of the Electoral Commission (EC); they do not lie in the hands of the government.”
He said the EC was the only independent body that had the constitutional mandate to manage elections.
As part of his visit, the President held closed-door meetings with his Togolese counterpart, Faure Gnassingbe.
Engagement with EC
President Akufo-Addo said so far the EC had said it was not in a position to organise elections beyond the shores of Ghana.
He said he was not aware to what extent there had been engagements between previous governments and the EC but stressed that “this government is going to engage”.
“These are discussions that we have to have. We cannot dictate to the EC but we can definitely examine what the conditions are that will enable it to organise elections that have Ghanaians abroad voting,” he emphasised.
Drawing from the experiences of other countries, the President said many countries in the world, including Togo, had made that possible for their citizens abroad to vote in local elections.
“There are many countries in West Africa and around the world that do allow their citizens overseas to vote. I cannot understand why, in Ghana, we do not allow that to happen,” he said.
He said the government would sit down with the EC to consider what the constraints were and see to what extent they could be addresses to pave the way for Ghanaians living abroad to exercise their franchise.
President Akufo-Addo told the gathering that since his victory, he had been preoccupied with building the government at the national, regional and district levels.
He said it was now time to go round and visit West African communities to introduce himself to them as the new President of Ghana.
That, he said, would also provide the opportunity to interact with the Ghanaian community in those countries and then use the occasion to strengthen the bilateral relations between Ghana and member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
“And, very importantly for me, use the occasion to reiterate the commitment of my country and myself to the ECOWAS Project,” the President said, adding that it was his considered view that it was extremely important for all to ensure that regional ECOWAS worked for all.
Huge ECOWAS market
He said the ECOWAS sub-region could boast about 350 million people and that in 13 years the population was going to increase to 500 million.
“That’s a huge market and if we conduct ourselves properly and intelligently, it should be the basis of our future prosperity,” he added.
President Akufo-Addo said he thought it prudent to visit Ghana’s neighbours and reiterate the commitments of the ties of friendship and neighbourliness, solidarity and common enterprise with the leaders and people of those various countries.
“I am going to visit virtually all the countries of the ECOWAS, except Mali and The Gambia which I visited briefly, and in making this move, they say charity begins at home and so it was important that we started from Togo, our closest and nearest neighbour,” he said.
Commenting on relations between Ghana and Togo, the President said there was an artificial boundary that was drawn by the British and the French colonialists that divided the two.
That notwithstanding, he said, with mutual trust and understanding, both countries could engage in fluid business and social relations in a seamless and borderless manner.
The President, while deploring the inability of Ghanaians to write and speak French, announced plans to make the teaching and learning of French compulsory from the basic to the secondary level.
That, he said, would empower Ghanaians to survive in any part of the sub-region, saying: “People speak English but we cannot speak French. What is that? I think that we must go about it like that.”
Nana Akufo-Addo expressed the view that the previous Minister of Education was not particularly interested in carrying the French Language project through “but I am interested in it and my Minister of Education is interested in it and has it at the top of his priority list and we are going to work it out this year”.